Middle School and High School IEPs

Before we get started on things to think about for your middle school IEP or high school IEP, there are a few things parents should know.

First, middle school or high school is not a concept addressed in IDEA. IDEA does not require nor call for anything special to be added or done with a child’s IEP during this time. I say this only because many parents expect IEP changes or a special IEP meeting, but it is not required.

a dad and his disabled child making decisions

Of course it would be best practice to have a meeting as a child’s needs and environment will change. But again, not required per IDEA. Other than IEP transition, there is no specific expectation from the school outside of FAPE.

Also Read: Life Skills for Teens

Skills don’t magically appear.

The most common issue I run into with my clients is this age group is the removal of services.

There’s a lot of “Well, in middle school we….” and all of its cousins. Part of the “we don’t do that here” family.

Remember this–if needs and environment change, the IEP should change. A child is not a “baby” nor are you “babying him” if your child has more needs than his age peers. Some kids have more needs and that’s ok. This concept of “babying” them is rooted in ableism.

Just because a child appears on the doorstep of a middle school or high school does not mean that skills have magically appeared over that summer.

Teachers and Staff
28 Free PDF Pages of IEP Data Collection Sheets 
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Stand your ground and let your data do your advocating.

Over the years, I have found that the new challenges my clients facing when moving to middle or high school fall into 3 categories.

Here are some considerations for IEP teams. If you want further explanation, scroll down and watch the video. I go into much more detail there.

Daily Activities in Middle or High School

  • More transitions, schedule changes (daily, marking period), navigating an unfamiliar building
  • More independence expected (teacher doesn’t walk everyone to lunch!)
  • Decision making and choices increase
  • Less downtime in the school day
  • Downtime is independent, unstructured (study halls, homeroom)
  • Transitions may be rushed (and with penalties!)
  • Schedule may vary from peers
  • Responsible for supplies (gym clothes, musical instrument)
  • Failure=Higher Stakes (school discipline, peers, etc)
  • General feeling of “not being babied” anymore (ableist roots, ok to have more needs)

Social Changes in Middle and High School

  • Bullying and exclusion changes (but doesn’t necessarily increase)
  • Social perceptions, social awareness increases for peers
  • Relationships are more cemented, more dependent on reciprocal benefits
  • Social circles get smaller, depending on interest
  • More school options to explore interests
  • Exposed to many more people throughout a day (face recognition/working memory)
  • Peers mask feelings more, fewer “true” interactions
  • Peers concerned about their own social status
  • Less adult intervention in conflict

Academic Changes for IEP Students-Middle and High School

  • Grades matter more (post secondary)
  • Learning is more applying skills, improving skills–not learning new skills (READING)
  • Initiating, stopping, starting, sequencing, memory, decision making, group work, projects, long term assignments, identifying mistakes and correcting or rework
  • Struggle with EF? NIGHTMARE
  • Teach, accommodate and Teach + Accommodate
  • Changing mindset (skills do not just appear!)
  • Must include self advocacy skills/goals in any plan

IEP Teams for Middle and High School

You are going to have to advocate and get your team on board, especially if they are trying to reduce or remove services.

  • Skills do not magically appear; why should an IEP decrease just because of age?
  • share the same vision (more next week)
  • Demands increased or changed, why wouldn’t needs?
  • Compile your evidence
  • Engage your child to maximum extent possible
  • Outside services when applicable
  • “We don’t do that here”
  • “He has to learn this, because…” Yes, we do share the vision.
  • Teach and Accommodate
  • Won’t vs. Can’t

Middle School and High School IEPs video

This is a replay of a webinar I did recently on this topic.

Note: If you have ad blockers on your browser, you will not be able to view this.

Here is the printable of the slides if you wish to flip through them.

If you have any other questions about middle school and high school IEPs, please join our online forums.